Oil Baths


Each of us has special memories of our growing up years – and as we plod through our lives now, we do remember those days, when life was so simple and uncomplicated.

One of the most wonderful memories I have is about a ritual that our family followed on Sundays. Most people in our part of the world probably had the same ritual too.

Sundays were ‘oil bath’ days. The day went something like this. We woke up at 7 a.m. and had a light breakfast. After this, my siblings and I would sit on a straw mat on the floor. Our mom would then warm oil in a small wok, to which basil leaves, pepper corn, raw rice, hibiscus flowers etc were added.

Once the oil was warm enough to say ouch! when it touched the palm of your hand, the oil massage would start.

As our mom massaged our scalps with warm oil, our whole body would relax, and eyes automatically close – it was pure bliss. Our hands, legs and faces were also massaged with oil.

We had some old frocks that we wore for this activity. We were asked to soak- in the oil for a good 45 minutes. So, during this time we sat and played all kinds of word games.

We took turns to have our baths in hot water, washing away the oil with heavenly-smelling shikakai powder.

Once all the kids were done, the adults did the same.

Oil bath days had special menus, and the food was served piping hot. The whole family would sit and eat together.

After the heavy meal, my Dad would play 70s music; the deep voices of the singers lulling us into sleep.

We would wake up refreshed and relaxed, ready to have some hot cocoa or if we were lucky, a little cup of coffee.

Oil bath days were so special. They rejuvenated our minds and bodies, and also strengthened family bonds.

Where did the years fly?


She is in a hurry, always in a hurry these days, with a hundred things to do and projects to finish.

She looks into the shoe cupboard for her sandals; her patience wears thin, as she peers into the jumble of leather and canvas and laces.

I offer her mine, one of my flat sandals and she throws me a grateful look, but her feet are too big for my sandals, at least two sizes too big.

My daughter, when did she grow?

It seems like yesterday, when she was the size of my lower arm. Only six months back she fit into my sandals…wow, my throat catches as  she breezes out, her bag slung across her shoulder, the last remnants of breakfast still in her mouth, books in hand, her mind already away in her world of school and friends and projects.

The cute chubby girl, who loved Barbies and playing with doll houses, is now belting out pop, jazz and Bollywood numbers. The giggles are now replaced by LoLs.

There was a time when her world was our home and I, her mother, her ‘go to’ person for every silly thing.

Now, while I am still the ‘go to’ person, her universe has expanded. It is colourful and vibrant, filled with busy days, lots of fun, lots of study and lots of music and talking to friends.

I wait for this girl to come back from school and share her day with me. At her own time. She comes into the kitchen and starts a conversation. She sits at the small kitchen table and chit chats. She just wants me to listen. Her words meander with her thoughts – she shares pages from her day, laughs at funny things that happened and enjoys the food I’ve made.

Now, she pauses, and asks, “So, how was your day?”

We talk about my day. Then she goes back into her world of books, music and friends.

We go out for girls’ evenings out. We shop, we eat out and come back happy.

So much has changed, as my little angel has grown into this beautiful young girl with a great sense of humour.

She still has time for the big hug before she goes to bed, an all-enveloping hug thay says it all.

I am so proud to be her mother.

What’s in a Nose?


Books talk about aquiline noses, Greek noses, up-turned noses, and 11 other types of noses, but have you heard of a rain-predictor nose?

That’s a first, I’m sure.

This fact would have been a great surprise to me too, but for the fact that the said nose belongs to yours truly.

The realization that one possesses talent for art, music and dance is great,

But what does one do with such a skill; where one’s nose can predict, often quite accurately, when it’s going to rain!

I realized this after careful observation. Over the last couple of years I’ve noticed that whenever I’ve been in humid weather or in any coastal town or city, my nostrils get mildly blocked.

However, on certain days the block is complete. I’ve always observed that on such days, there is definitely a heavy downpour later in the day. As the rain abates, my block usually clears up. Strange, but true.

While no meterology department is looking to hire me for sure, I love to surprise guests and family members with my predictions, which are quite accurate.

When my husband’s parents visited us last year, my father in law always checked with me before stepping out.

Somedays we would wait to see if my prediction came true…and as we sat down for our afternoon coffee, the rain usual fell in torrents and we laughed at this strange rain-predictor that’s my nose.

The Arranged Marriage – A short story


Hundreds of calls had flown between the two houses. What started off with horoscope matching, education, career and family-history gleaning, had finally culminated in this meeting of the boy and the girl.

It was a rainy day, as each came equipped with a mental folder of facts about the other – family, education, a few pictures, facebook profile, siblings and where they worked blah blah blah. Almost like a blind date, but with the burden of family expectations added to it.

Understandably, each of them was nervous. They met at a fine dining restaurant on a Sunday afternoon. Each was dressed for impact.

The initial hellos were uneasy, sudden bouts of nervousness washing over each of them.

The young man started talking about the weather…a safe topic. They dissected the weather, as the rain that lashed outside watched the young couple.

They placed their order, each agreeing readily, when the other recommended a dish.

As the food warmed their stomachs, their conversation meandered through each of their childhoods, punctuated by pauses that talked about their favourite books and hobbies, and then back again to their jobs, all the time trying to ask themselves if each could spend a lifetime with the other.

Then the topic moved to books, soon an animated discussion was on about favourite authors and all time specials…as the afternoon Sun peeped in to see the young couple talking.

By dessert they had unwound enough to laugh without being conscious of themselves. Empty tables watched them as they sipped their coffee.

The car’s drone heard them discussing their favourite music.

Twilight watched them at the beach, playfully laughing like old friends.

The stars twinkled in delight as the first text messages flew between their mobiles.

The calendar watched as days and dates were worked out.

Cinema screens watched them eating popcorn together.

Their families watched in happiness as they fell in love.

Coffee or Tea ?


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Image courtesy – Wikipedia

People have likes, dislikes and  ambiguities. However, when it comes to coffee and tea, most identify themselves as either coffee drinkers or tea drinkers. I don’t know too many people, who like both tea and coffee with the same fervour.

I love coffee. Period. The choice is as easy as black or white, maybe a few wisps of grey, when one of my friends serves me a cup of tea that’s laced heavily with fresh ginger or lemon.

I make a mean cup of coffee, but my tea making skills …well, what’s that? Enough said.

My husband and daughter are the midways, they relish both coffee and tea, so I’ve passed on my ‘barely-there’ tea-making skills to my daughter, so she can take care of her Dad.

So, why am I telling you all this? My tea making skills were put to the test. Sigh!

Two of my friends had come home to complete a community project that we were working on.

I’d made some spring rolls and decided to make coffee after we’d finished our work.

When I asked if I could serve coffee, one of them said she would prefer tea. The other friend also said that she wouldn’t mind tea, probably to spare me the extra effort.

Hmmm…tea???? My mind jolted awake…but my head, the traitor, nodded vigorously, aided by my mouth that added, “Sure.”

My tea jar had been refilled with a fresh box of tea leaves from India.

I set the water to boil and added the tea. As it boiled and bubbled, the aroma seemed okay, but when I added milk, the colour remained white, with a mere hint of brown.

I sweated…what could I do? This looked like milk. Oh dear. I added  a few more spoons of tea (I know, that’s not the way to make tea).

I called out to my friends with a fake laugh, “Girls, I am serving you white tea ok?”

So, I served it with all the dignity I could muster.

One friend sipped and said, “It’s ok. Must be one of those that do not infuse colour. It’s quite ok.”

The other friend looked pained after the first sip. To her ‘tea’ probably meant what ‘coffee’ means to me, so I totally understood the expression.

I love coffee.

The Joys of Writing


My son has been given a school project to complete; he has to write an essay about ‘Aliens in the backyard’, as part of his creative writing course.

He spends an hour writing out a draft and wants to read it out to me.  What hits me is that his eyes are shimmering with the excitement of what he has written.  He stands up for effect.  He reads out his essay, about a grotesque looking alien (boys will be boys), with multiple eyes, ears and long hands, whose battery gets charged by jumping up and down on a bouncing trampoline that’s supposedly in our backyard. Anyone jumping on it automatically charges the alien’s battery, so my son does his bit.  The story has elements of adventure, love, kindness and mystery.  He finishes reading and looks up at me with glittering eyes and an expectant smile.

I tell him that his essay is very well written and hug him.  He is very happy and runs away to make his final draft.  I remain seated, mulling over his essay.

My son’s excitement was palpable because he re-lived the story he had written, as he read it out to me.  I hope, that there’s a writer lurking in him.

Then I ask myself, does my writing give me such unadulterated joy?  Do I enjoy what I have created. Yes, most times yes, but the glee that I saw in my son’s face, I don’t see in mine.  Is it because we are older and can’t think like kids or let do we allow ourselves only limited leeway for enjoyment, because of deadlines and other commitments?

I still remember some of the essays I wrote in high school and in university. They still make me smile. I have not had the heart to throw some of them – handwriting that slants right on yellowed paper, with words and thoughts from another time. I get brief flashes of the person I was, and realize how I have evolved – both as a person, and in my writing.

Writing is an extension of our thoughts, captured and chiseled into manageable sentences.  Once the sentences have been composed, the words don’t meander off the page, like our thoughts do. That’s the beauty of writing. It helps refine our thoughts and articulate them in well-defined forms, giving us joy for years afterward.

Strange Things Do Happen


Sometimes, when we read about strange incidents that have happened to people, we stop to wonder whether such things can actually happen in people’s lives.

There is one such incident that happened in our lives, many years ago.

We’d just bought a new car – a beautiful, deep green colour. Shiny and clean, waiting to guzzle up the miles.

My husband usually drove to work in the car. A few days after we had bought it, my husband called me at work and casually mentioned that a coconut had fallen on the car; from a tree that was close to where he had parked. A small dent appeared on the roof of the car. We laughed about it and moved on.

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Image courtesy – Wikipedia

Exactly ten days after the coconut fell, and I was at work, my husband called me again.

He said, “Guess what happened to the car?”

I laughed and replied, “Another coconut fell on it?”

He said, “No, a coconut tree fell on the car. The hood is completely smashed in.”

I gasped and reeled from the shock of his statement.

He had taken pictures for insurance purposes and forwarded them to me.

I was amazed at how the tree had fallen. There was a row of cars parked, and the tree had fallen exactly on our car, not an inch this side or that side.

We were glad nobody was near or inside the car, when the tree fell.

Maybe, the initial coconut fall was a warning of sorts, or the tree was trying our car on for size. Whatever it was, it happened.

Strange things do happen. Sometimes we are those people, whom others read about and say, “Can’t believe that actually happened.”

The Curious Case Of The Grazing Sheep


I am spring cleaning my digital cupboard today. A virtual cupboard distributed around the house, across numerous phones and laptops and tablets.  How did we manage to hoard so many files? Music, photos…phew! Millions of them. Selfies…(who started this trend?). My eyes hurt with clearing up.

I am ready to give up within the hour. Maybe I should take this up device-by- device. With that decision made, I feel less daunted.

As I browse through the photos, a couple of them from late last year make me smile.

A couple of years ago, we picked up a unique chess set from New Zealand, during our holiday there.

The chess board has green and yellow squares and all the pieces are sheep – black sheep (ha ha) and white sheep.

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I treasure this chess set a lot; and my kids are banned from using it to play chess – as the material from which the set is made is breakable.

Late last year, my little nephew came to visit. After having his milk in the morning, he would walk around the living room. I conducted conversations with him from the kitchen, as I experience the ‘mom-goes-crazy-every-morning’ syndrome, and was usually tied-up with my chores.

When the children left for school and I sat down for a breather, I was amused to see that the sheep had started grazing in the meadow. My ‘no-one-touches-this-chess set’ policy flew through the window.

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This picture was taken that day.

So everyday, till he was with us, my little nephew grazed his sheep in the green and yellow meadow.

Little hearts that beat


Just outside our condo, there runs a fairly long road. There is no taxi stand there, so people queue up on a first-come-first-hail basis.

It was peak-hour this morning, when I stood in line to hail a taxi. The line was fairly long, and all of us lifted our hands and craned our necks like hooded serpents, trying to speed things up, by hailing taxis for people ahead of us.

It was very hot, and rivulets of sweat poured down my face.Finally, I moved to first place. Yay! I hailed the next taxi and got in. I wished the taxi driver a good morning and he shouted out a cheery Hi!

We chatted about the weather, as the taxi weaved its way through heavy traffic, to my destination

On the small display screen in front of the cabbie, a slideshow was on, about the taxi company, promotion offers and the like. The last image on the screen was the image of a card, with a big red heart, obviously coloured by a child. It had a message that said – ‘Come home safe, Daddy.’
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Image courtesy : Shutterstock

That kind of choked me up. I asked the cabbie if his children had made the card for him? He told me that all taxis from his company had this image on their slideshow.

This got me thinking, a simple card from your child, whose heart is filled with love for you and whose world revolves around you!

Everyday, millions of people drive, walk on construction sites, operate cranes, go down into mines, dive into the ocean, and thousands of other jobs – where safety and alertness are extremely important.

While safety measures and procedures are followed in most of these places, these men and women should take extra care, both for themselves and for the little hearts, who beat for their Dads and Moms – to come home safe and sound.

Enid Blyton & A Cafe in London


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Image courtesy -Wikipedia -Scones

Many years ago, I was on a work assignment in London. Every weekend, I tried to see something of the city, and soon fell in love with it. With the city tour guidebook, I checked out some of the recommended walking trails.

A few days before my trip to London, when I’d come to know that I would be travelling, I made a list. More about that later.

It was another grey and cold English day, as I set out to the Kew Gardens, on one of my weekend walking trails. I spent a wonderful morning at the gardens. By noon the skies had darkened and rain was imminent.

I decided to head back. On the way, I was stopped by the delicious smells of freshly baked cakes and bread from a small roadside cafe.

I decided to go in for a quick bite and checked to see if my list was still in my wallet.

A cheerful looking woman took my order. I showed her my list. I asked her if they served  any of the items on the list – scones, hot chocolate with whipped cream, roasted jacket potatoes, strawberries with cream.

She smiled and asked me why I wanted those specific items. I replied that I’d grown up on Enid Blyton and that the things on my list, featured in most of her books.

My sisters and I had decided that whoever visited England first, would try out those delicious items,  and write back to the others.

She laughed and told me that they had fresh scones and hot chocolate with cream.

I struck two items off my list, feeling foolish and happy at the same time.

The scones and hot chocolate were yummy, especially the cream.

Just as I left the cafe, the lady gave me a small paper bag and said, “Some scones for you to take away, with our compliments.”

I was so touched.  It was a long and happy day – from favourite childhood books to a cafe in London and the sweet gesture of the lady.

I completed the rest of my list before I left London, but definitely look forward to getting started on a new list, this time, with my children.